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Opinion: Iran is taking aim at the anti-ISIS coalition - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The sudden dispute over striking ISIS has a backstory. All parties agreed to fight the terrorist organizations of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front following the sudden rush of ISIS’s victories in Iraq. These parties are Iran, the US, Russia, the Gulf states, European countries and Turkey. This agreement has been strengthened by the relatively speedy political transition in Baghdad, ending a crisis in governance that could have lasted for months. Nuri Al-Maliki was removed from the premiership, and everyone agreed to a new prime minister, parliamentary speaker and president. Then, US forces began their aerial military operations against ISIS and drove its fighters out of the areas surrounding the Mosul Dam and Sinjar, forcing them to flee deeper into Iraq and Syria.

However, these were limited operations, and ISIS has enough men and arms to once again threaten the security of Iraq, the region, and perhaps the world. Therefore, concerned countries decided to hold a conference to hammer out a strategy to confront this security threat, which is a danger to them all in one way or another.

Take Turkey, for example. Some of its consulate employees are still being held hostage by ISIS, which is threatening to kill them. Saudi Arabia knows ISIS is hiding close to its borders on the Iraqi side. And Europe has realized that hundreds of these ISIS fighters are EU citizens who may pose a threat once they return to their home countries. Meanwhile, Russia was one of the countries most enthusiastic about fighting against ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front.

However, as the conference neared, the Iranian government requested that the Syrian government be invited to attend the summit in Jeddah. It was only normal that the host country, Saudi Arabia, rejected this request, as the continuing existence of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is one of the causes of the current crisis. If Assad had accepted the proposals of the Geneva I conference, ISIS wouldn’t even have been born, and much of the chaos, bloodshed and displacement of millions of people we see today would not have happened. It is also the Syrian regime that released Al-Qaeda prisoners and handed over poorly protected areas to ISIS in order to harm the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Above all, if ISIS has so far killed 5,000 people, then what of the 200,000 civilian victims the Syrian regime has killed?

Therefore, when fighting terrorism, it is simply not possible to cooperate with a party whose hands are stained with blood.

Despite this, the Iranians said the Assad regime’s participation was a pre-condition for their attendance. The Russians followed Iran’s lead here, and said they would boycott the anti-ISIS conference. At this point, the celebratory rhetoric about promising to confront terrorism turned into a defense of ISIS, as the conference was depicted as a war on the Syrian and Iraqi people, and as a plan for a new occupation. This came in addition to some other nonsense that has circulated in the media in the past few days.

This makes it easier to assert that ISIS serves both the Assad regime and the Iranian regime, particularly in Syria. During an embarrassing moment following the collapse of Mosul, many were afraid Baghdad would be next, so they needed the US military support and Saudi Arabia’s political support to save the Iraqi regime in Baghdad.

There is currently an Iranian propaganda push being disseminated via daily newspapers, TV satellite channels, Twitter and other social networking websites. This propaganda push seeks to cast doubt on the aims of the conference and distort the facts, making it seem as though confronting ISIS is an act that serves the West.

Truth be told, regional states have been calling on the international community—particularly the US—for two years, asking them to cooperate in confronting these dangerous terrorist groups. Unfortunately, the White House rejected these appeals. However, the US president was eventually forced to act following international pressure and after the atrocities committed by ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front became too much to ignore. Those who fear international intervention include Iran and the Assad regime, because ISIS plays an important role in sabotaging the rebels in Syria, and because the Americans are, for the first time, convinced that supporting the FSA may be the only means to establish a new government as an alternative to Assad’s worn-out regime while also confronting terrorism. This is why Iran and Russia decided to launch a propaganda campaign to discredit the Jeddah conference, and to distort the international campaign against terrorism. Many partisan groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and others, are now echoing this Iranian propaganda as well.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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